Winning Battles, Losing Wars...
One of the primary characteristics of conservative Evangelical and Reformed activism over the past half-century has been an unerring ability to win every battle yet lose every war.
This was brought home to me years ago in my waning days of involvement in the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) when I would listen to CBMW's leaders declare egalitarian feminism an increasingly defeated movement.
In one sense, they were right. Exegetically, CBMW thoroughly bested Christians for Biblical Equality many years ago. But feminist thought does not spring from exegetical inquiry. Feminist thought springs from depravity. And assuming depravity can be defeated exegetically is silly.
Defeating feminism within the Church requires vision, faith and a willingness to endure opprobrium. Feminism's sinfulness must be thoroughly comprehended and God's truth maximally declared rather than mincingly. Patriarchy must cease to be a religious four-letter word. The tender feelings of nascent feminists must no longer determine the contours of discourse.
In years leading up to World War II Churchill was out of power and favor--a lone voice warning against appeasement, contra mundum. Yet unpopular as his message was, events proved Churchill right.
Unfortunately, conservative leaders within the Reformed and Evangelical world are too often unwilling to endure the opprobrium required to advance God's truth contra mundum. So, as proponents of feminist theology speak at the Presbyterian Church of America's General Assembly and as Reformed seminaries and colleges depart from the Biblical truth of male headship, not a word is heard from ministries which declare themselves mainstays of Reformational theology.
Friends, let's be honest: ministries which claim the banner of the Reformation without seeing fit to speak a public word against proponents of feminism in PCA and Reformed schools are out of touch with reality. They may be Reformed in the technical sense of the word, but they're of a different spirit than the Reformers because they've lost sight of the Reformation's guiding principle: semper reformanda, the church reformed, always reforming.
The Church's need is leaders who are able to fight the battles of today, not those of yesterday. This is particularly true of feminism's war on the Church. Feminism must be understood as a formidable heresy. Christian teaching on sexuality must extend beyond Church and home to embrace society as a whole.
Some years ago I read an interesting study of the strategic approach of chess grand masters. David Norwood writes in Chess and Education:
"It is often supposed that, apart from their 'extraordinary powers of memory", expert players have phenomenal powers of calculation. The beginner believes that experts can calculate dozens of moves ahead and he will lose to them only because he cannot calculate ahead so far. Yet this is utter nonsense. From my own experience I can say that grandmasters do not do an inordinate amount of calculating. Tests (notably de Groot's experiments) support me in this claim. If anything, grandmasters often consider fewer alternatives; they tend not to look at as many possible moves as weaker players do. And so, perversely, chess skill often seems to reflect the ability to avoid calculations. It is, in truth, not clear that chess is a game of calculation... Most of the time it is something quite different that is required in chess, something more akin to 'understanding' or 'insight'." David Norwood, Chess and Education [1995, Gresham College, London].
Amateur players try to weigh each move. Masters see the entire board. This is equally true of life in general. Those who win wars see the entire board. Those who lose see life only through the lens of immediate personal advantage. And thus, because their personal stars may be ascendant and the battles they have joined may look favorable, they assume the war is won.
In fact, such thinking is the reason we are losing the war. May God grant us leaders who see beyond personal advantage to declare His glorious truth in maximalist terms. And lest you wonder, yes, I place myself in the camp of those who are often content to win personal battles even if that means losing the overall war. But I am repenting.